Preservation of Affordable Housing Uses Utility Data to Plan Retrofits and Attract Funding

By Toni Gallo, ICF International on Oct 04, 2016

Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), a Better Buildings Challenge multifamily partner, is a nonprofit developer, owner, and operator of nearly 9,000 affordable homes in nine states and the District of Columbia. The organization operates a diverse portfolio of multifamily housing, including high-rises, garden apartments, and townhouses.

POAH’s primary mission is to preserve, create, and sustain affordable, healthy homes that support economic security and access to opportunity for all. As affordable housing providers across the country face ever-increasing operating costs, the POAH team recognizes that strategically managing the utility bills and the environmental footprint of its properties is a critical piece of its mission to preserve affordable housing.

Since 2010, POAH has benchmarked utility data from more than 1,500 utility accounts. The data is broken out so the relative costs of lighting, air conditioning, domestic hot water, electric baseboard, heating, and water consumption can be tracked, making the effect of energy and water-efficiency retrofits easier to measure. This data-driven approach helps inform where and what type of improvements are the most effective, giving POAH the ability to plan building-appropriate retrofit projects. Additionally, POAH is able to use the information gained when approaching potential funders. Being able to provide detailed insight regarding its properties’ performance helped POAH secure the loan needed to fund two energy performance contracts in Rhode Island. 

Altogether, POAH has been successful in planning and funding a diverse array of projects with the help of the information gained through utility benchmarking.  The organization has leveraged utility provider incentives, state and federal grant programs, and low-interest loan opportunities to replace outdated systems and incorporate renewable energy generation across its portfolio. Through the LEAN Multifamily Program (part of the Mass Saves® program for low-income multifamily properties) POAH was able to complete LED lighting, air sealing, and insulation work in many of its Massachusetts properties. Finally, POAH participated in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Green Retrofit program, targeting its Garfield property in Washington, D.C. and Colony Plaza property in Excelsior Springs, MO, with data-driven retrofit projects.   

We look forward to featuring POAH’s  Better Buildings Challenge Implementation Model later this fall. The solution will offer tips from POAH on how utility benchmarking can help multifamily housing owners strategically plan retrofits and attract funding.